Like all other coronavirus-stricken places in the world, Guam is not likely to return to a “normal life” anytime soon — unless a vaccine against Covid-19 becomes available, Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero said.
Guam, which remains in Pandemic Condition of Readiness 2, has 312 Covid-19 positive cases, thus some restrictions stay in place. Social distancing in public places continues to be a policy, face coverings remain part of people’s daily getups and constant hand sanitizing becomes an imperative routine.
“I don’t know if we can say that we'll ever return to normal or that we can say that there will never be a coronavirus infection here, because, as experts and scientists really understand, this coronavirus is going to be with us for a long, long time, if not forever,” the governor said at Monday’s press conference.
Moving Guam to PCOR 4 “is going to be a big challenge because our criteria for PCOR 4 is that vaccinations and vaccines are going to be available.”
Covid-19 is not just a public health issue; this crisis entails an economic impact. Striking a balance between the health of the people and the health of the economy, the governor said, requires a “very diligent” and “very deliberate” approach to make sure “that we consider all possibilities and we can anticipate all possibilities so we can put in the put in the actions and the decisions that we need to address these challenges.”
The governor said there is no decision yet as to the date of tourism reopening.
Leon Guerrero is aware of the public’s restlessness but feels that opening tourism too soon is not a good idea.
“I think for the people of Guam we need to prioritize that our lives have to be the main priority and the health of our community is the main priority. If we don't have people's health, we don't have people living and alive, you know we can't move on with any kind of economy or any kind of living alternatives, or living opportunities here in our island,” said the governor.
She said the industry stakeholders also have to redo the protocols for incoming travelers.
“We also are still looking at our science and our data in making sure that we are very confident in controlling. They are making sure that we protect our public health and public safety so even together with the GVB and the industry. If a date is what you need, there has not been a date made,” the governor said. “I am not a betting woman. When I make my decisions, it’s very much based on a confidence that I have that I will win. In terms of a tourism coming back, I will tell you that I don't think we will have complete return of our tourism.”
Leon Guerrero also acknowledged that Guam is not exactly a favored destination right now.
“We are part of the U.S. As you know, the U.S. right now is in hot spot all over and they are lumping us in together with the U.S. We, to them, a very high-risk hot spot area and until I think the US also stabilizes their virus that would be very difficult for the tourists to come,” the governor said.
She noted that other countries are just as concerned about the coronavirus that they're not even allowing their returning residents to just come back. “They are requiring PCR testing when they come back and they are requiring quarantine when they come back,” Leon Guerrero said. “I think until these countries also lift their restrictions, I don't think there's going to be much travelling back and forth. I would say that if we are going to start seeing tourists, I would say not till like the first quarter of next year-- maybe only very limited amount and again that will vary depending on how these countries look at us.”
She said Guam also has to make sure that incoming travelers come from a safe place. Protecting the island and ensuring safety, the governor added, requires “a lot of logistics, a lot of thinking, a lot of strategies, a lot of complex discussions, and a lot of deliberate thoughtful scientific information, expertise advise and so forth to make sure that what we're doing is the right thing.”
Guam must learn a lesson from other states that reopened too soon “without any kind of gradual lifting and monitoring and data testing,” the governor said.
“Experts, like Dr. Faucci, are out there saying that when we do open, make sure we open gradually and make sure that we monitor, make sure that we test, make sure that we do contact tracing, make sure that we have hospital capabilities that are able to provide the healthcare that we need should we have a surge,” she said. “Those are the kinds of things that we need to be very cognizant and be a priority of and I think if we do not protect our help, we do not protect the lives of our people, there's no sense in any economy at all.”